Part 2: Educational value add: making the most of the students you have

In part 1 I argued that educational advantage, measured through ICSEA, has a substantial impact on a school’s HSC results. The implication was that schools with higher ICSEA scores should perform better all else being equal. The so what is that schools can improve their performance by picking the best and brightest (linked to being more advantaged). This is akin to a sports team winning by selecting the best players.

A good coach (and sports system) will be able to get the most out of the team that they have. An average team will become good, and a good team…

Part 1: The role of socio-education advantage and HSC performance

It is conventional wisdom that students from more wealthy and advantaged families do better at school. Each year when the NSW HSC results are released, the top rankings are dominated by selective schools such as James Ruse and expensive private schools such Sydney Grammar School. In fact, in 2019 the top performing non-selective government school came in at 67 (Willoughby Girls High) and the top systemic Catholic school just ahead at 64 (Brigidine College, Randwick).

The chart above illustrates clear groups between school performance and tuition fees for each of the four main school sectors: Independents, Government selective, Government non-selective…

Image credit: Melbourne child psychology

Welcome to Flightworld

Imagine the following situation.

You enrol in pilot school and begin your training. The first module involves learning the basic theory about flying. After spending a few months studying it is time to take the theory test. You get 45%, a fail. No worries, at least you tried and anyways it has been 3 months so the syllabus says that you need to move onto the next module → flight simulator training.

During simulator training you learn all about the different controls and instruments of your plane. You find everything confusing and it is really difficult to multitask. After a…

Last week I had a conversation with a friend of a friend who runs talk sessions at a major Australian arts venue. The talks are well regarded and attended yet she felt that often the audience wasn’t learning that much. She wanted to know what could be done so people would actually remember much more from the talk.

Through the discussion we came across the unexpected insight: perhaps learning in this setting is not really the goal. Moreover it might be bad business.

So how did we get there?…

Presenting, engagement and learning

A common mistake is to confuse three related yet different processes…

Funding for Australian government schools has increased substantially over the last decade. School funding is a contentious issue that many people from all parts of life feel strongly about. Each year when budgets are announced you hear familiar arguments. One side argues that there’s not enough money for public education while others say that the existing money is already being wasted.

This article seeks to understand where the increase in funding has gone.

School funding to government schools increased mainly due to inflation and additional students

The analysis shows that the increase in real funding (adjusted for inflation) per student has gone almost equally to

  1. more staff;
  2. staff pay rises;
  3. Other operations and…


I gave a talk recently at Woollahra Library titled How to transition your child into high school. As part of that talk I spoke about 4 different mindsets that students should hold to improve their success during school.

While the event was aimed at teenagers, I believe the ideas are relevant for all traditional students as well as adult life-long learners. If you are reading this post for yourself just replace the parental tips for activities you should do for yourself :)

1. Ownership mindset

The belief that you as the student (not your parents or teachers) are responsible for your actions, behaviours…

TL:DR →We’re all busy, I get it. Here’s the summary of what happened

  • We ran a term-long trial of adapptED together with an after-school program. 9 students were involved across grades 3,4 and 5 with varying abilities.
  • Students met for 45 minutes each week in a computer lab where they worked on the adapptED platform. A teacher was available and provided support on concepts if they got stuck.
  • Pre/post tests were conducted to test the hypothesis that the adapptED platform would improve maths knowledge.
  • Results: Average 8 mark increase with p<0.01 (statistically significant).
  • Conclusion: adapptED can be effective in improving student outcomes in a small-group mixed ability environment. …

Source: QTAC

As Term 2 draws to a close many year 12 students are looking ahead to the Trial HSC exams. At Sandbox Learning Australia many of our students have been asking more and more about ATARs and the scaling process. It is a topic that is often misunderstood leading to confusion and anxiety.

In this article we will look into the ‘black box’ of ATAR calculation to show you how it works in a simple manner.


Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here are the key takeaways about ATARs and scaling.

  • ATAR is a RANK not a score
  • English…

Have you just picked up a new tutoring student or have a new student join your classroom? Before you can start working with them on adapptED you will need to form a student/teacher connection.

Follow these steps to add a new student to your teacher account.

Before you can connect with students ensure they signed up for an account. You will need to know their adapptED login email address in order to connect with them.

  1. Make sure you are signed in to
  2. When you sign in you should be automatically taken to your Teaching Lounge. …

Do you have a child using adapptED and want to check how they are going? You could ask them to log in and take you through their work however this is likely to lead to frustration for both parties. Instead, a much better way is to set up a parent account so you can track progress whenever you want.

This post will take you through how to create a new parent account and then add your children to it.

Sign up for a Parent Account

Open your favourite web browser (adapptED works best in Chrome, though) and go to …

Jesse Whelan

EdTech entrepreneur, passionate about improving education impact through tech and research-driving practice. Former consultant and engineer. Harvard MBA.

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